Look again at this space station. There it is home to a crew of six astronauts. It's us, too. In it all human beings live their lives, realize science and maintain the spacecraft with the support of an entire team on Earth.
This week, ESA is highlighting the role of European teams that enable a space mission – from preparation to launch, from continuous research to testing of new equipment.
Read about our bi-weekly update of the joint efforts between the ground team and our ambassadors in space to keep the orbital laboratory running.
Two spacewalks (also called Extra-vehicular Activity, or EVA) happened just a week after, on March 22 and 29, just after the arrival of three new astronauts to reach the Space Station. The entire team of six people worked together to improve the energy storage capacity of the International Space Station.
ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet was the European link for the first spacewalk to replace old nickel-hydrogen batteries with newer and more powerful lithium-ion batteries.
At the Station, Thomas says the preparation starts about two weeks ahead with a set of procedures called "Road to EVA."
"Preparing for a walk in space will take two to three hours of your schedule every day. Many people have been involved in the preparation and the risks are much greater when you are off the Space Station," he explains.
Another element outside the Space Station also received an upgrade. The Atmospheric-Space Interaction Monitor, which monitors storms and lightening phenomena from a Columbus laboratory point of view in Europe, has received better software.
It took two days for the European teams at the Belgian User Operations and Support Center to restore the system and equip the storm chaser with greater precision to continue their observations of sprites, blue jets and elves in the upper atmosphere.
Scientific teams welcomed the software update that came a week after launching an article on the payload of a prestigious research publication.
And some downgrades too
Space affects the body of an astronaut. In the absence of gravity, muscles lose functionality and mass, and astronauts exercise for about two hours a day to prevent loss of muscle mass. The Myotones experiment focuses on resting muscle tone.
NASA astronaut Christina Koch used a non-invasive device the size of a smart phone to measure the health of various muscles and tendons in her body, some of which are known to be affected by atrophy and loss of strength during long periods of inactivity. The results may lead to the development of alternative rehabilitation treatments on Earth.
Bone loss and its recovery are another important concern not only for astronauts, but also for people affected by aging and immobilization. Studying what happens for long periods in space provides a good view of osteoporosis. Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin designed a blood sample for the EDOS-2 experiment to monitor how his body handles bone remodeling in orbit.
The way the astronauts feel the passage of time seems to be altered in space. Nick Hague held his first session of the Time Perception experiment using a virtual reality headset and headphones connected to a computer. During this experiment, astronauts are asked to estimate the amount of time elapsed between two events, react to stimuli, and judge the duration of one minute.
There are also experiments on the Space Station running on its own. In addition to timely human interventions and remote teleoperations, the following surveys continued to produce science on board: Compacted Granulars, ICE Cubes and Matiss.
Human Exploration and Robotics at ESA
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NASA astronauts complete 215th space walk at station
Houston TX (SPX) March 30, 2019
Flight engineers from Expedition 59, Nick Hague, and Christina Koch of NASA, completed their spacewalk at 2:27 p.m. EDT. During the six-hour, 45-minute space walk, NASA's two astronauts successfully connected three more powerful lithium-ion batteries to replace the six previous nickel-hydrogen batteries that supply power to one channel on a pair of solar panels station. The new batteries provide improved and more efficient power capacity for operations.
The astronauts also worked … read more